Executive Order Bonanza has Implications for Business

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

President Trump will complete only his third full week on Friday and has already left a lasting mark on how small businesses and government itself work with 20 Executive Orders. Through a series of presidential actions, Mr. Trump has touched on topics ranging from Immigration to healthcare. It’s time we took a deeper dive into what’s come down the pipeline and how it affects the small business community. Read the blog here.

The domestic policy action that was signed in the presence of a number of small businesses, is the “Two-for-One” Executive Order.

Here’s the rundown. The Executive Order has two parts – one aimed at Fiscal Year 2017 and one for Fiscal Year 2018:

  • FY17: “1 in and 2 out.” If a federal agency proposes a new regulation, it must recommend two regulations to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to be terminated. OMB, not the agency will have the final word on which regulations are eliminated.
  • FY18 and subsequent fiscal years: Agencies are ordered to offset costs of new regulations and the OMB is ordered to create a budget that limits how much a new regulation can rise.

On its face, this Executive Order spells relief for lenders and small businesses but there are a raft of unknowns still to be resolved. One question is when this directive will be implemented. For example, the administration’s OMB Director-designate Congressman Mick Mulvaney is undergoing a tough confirmation process and the timeline for his confirmation by the full Senate is still unclear.

Executive Orders generally provide broad guidelines rather than detailed plans on its execution. Questions to be answered are: What actually constitutes a “regulation?” Is it simply a single rule or a whole host of interwoven regulations that, together, provide guidance for an agency on an individual program or policy? What constitutes a “cost?” Will the benefit in a cost-benefit analysis be considered or will the analysis include only the cost? OMB is stocked with experts so we anticipate much more clarity on this as soon as the OMB director is confirmed.

Now, on to more straightforward presidential actions regarding President Trump’s infrastructure plans. One such action expedites environmental review and approval for high priority infrastructure projects and gives any Cabinet member or governor the unilateral ability to designate a project as “high priority” thus shortening the approval process, laid out in the NEPA law. He’s also issued a “Build the Wall” action which orders the Department of Homeland Security to begin building a wall along the U.S. and Mexico border using existing funds. It also authorizes the hiring of 5,000 new border agents. Congress will have to appropriate additional funds for completion because the current budget does not have funding for this project.

Additionally, there were two more Executive Orders issued almost immediately upon President Trump’s inauguration. One of the first actions signed by President Trump was an Executive Order that begins the process of repealing Obamacare. While it does not directly repeal the law, it directs federal agencies to give states, insurance companies and consumers maximum flexibility in complying with Obamacare until such a time as it is repealed. Full repeal and/or replace is going to take an act of Congress which has been openly wrangling with itself on whether to repeal, repeal and replace, or to “repair” the existing law. Regardless, this presidential action starts the ball rolling with respect to repeal of Obamacare while Congress considers its course of action.

The other significant action taken by the president instituted a federal agency-wide hiring freeze on all existing and open positions with exceptions for national security, military, and public safety.  The president intends this as a stopgap and allows agencies to reallocate to prevent public safety and national security from being adversely affected. The kicker, however, is that the memorandum explicitly prevents the hiring of outside contractors to prevent the circumvention of the spirit of the order. Given the number of waivers and exceptions allowed, it’s not altogether clear how this will work in practice, but it certainly lays down a marker that the president is serious about reining in the growth of the federal government.

Finally, on Feb. 3, the president signed two Executive Orders aimed at decreasing regulations for the financial industry; the first calling for a review and the scaling back of existing financial laws, including Dodd-Frank, and the second halting the implementation of the Department of Labor’s (DOL) fiduciary rule, which was set to go into effect this April.

Dodd-Frank, enacted after the 2008 meltdown, was responsible for creating more stringent rules regarding bank capitalization, increasing compliance and reporting standards for banks, introducing stricter mortgage requirements, creating the Financial Stability Oversight Council and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and curbing excessive risk-taking and the existence of too-big-to-fail institutions on Wall Street. Mr. Trump’s action on Dodd-Frank requires regulators to produce a study on financial rules within 120 days—appearing as more of a demand for a review than a complete dismantling of the law.

The fiduciary rule was intended to prevent consumers from receiving conflicted advice when it comes to retirement savings. The president’s order calls for the DOL to examine the rule to determine whether it may lead to the unintended consequence of making it more difficult for advisors to provide financial advice to their clients. However, embraced by much of the financial industry, this order is expected to move quickly compared to the order on Dodd-Frank.

These Executive Actions have the potential to clear the way for even greater gains by women-owned small business moving forward. As we reach for new heights in 2017, WIPP will be fully engaged with the Congress and administration to ensure that burdensome regulations harming the growth of women-owned small business are eliminated and we continue to be the robust engine powering the small business economy.

Reimagining Health Care

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

Affordability, predictability, and flexibility were three themes reiterated at the Feb. 7 hearing held by the House Committee on Small Business entitled “Reimagining the Health Care Marketplace for America’s Small Business.” It was held for the purpose of taking a look at the current marketplace and its recent difficulties, and to explore options to improve access, affordability, and consistency.

While no clear legislative path has yet been paved, many facts, figures, and ideas were floated around regarding how to ensure that small business is not an afterthought in the revamping of the healthcare system. Solutions presented and discussed at the hearing included tax credits for small business, across state line coverage, and Health Savings Accounts and Health Reimbursement Arrangements.

Here is more about the items discussed.

  • Tax credits for the self-employed: As the Tax Code currently stands, self-employed individuals are restricted from deducting their health insurance premiums. Small, self-employed business owners end up paying more for health insurance because their premiums are not treated the same for taxes as other businesses.

Leveling the playing field by giving these small businesses tax credits would improve affordability for small business owners, as well as expand the pool of coverage, according to Keith Hall of the National Association of the Self-Employed (NASE).

  • Across state line coverage: The number of insurers participating in the marketplace varies widely from state to state, as do the number of coverage plans. The lack of competition among insurers in the current exchanges decreases pressure to keep costs down.

Mr. Hall of the NASE believes that allowing for the sale of health insurance across state lines will boost competition, driving costs down. In order for this to happen, Congress will have to enact a health plan that will modify the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines.

  • Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) and Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs): A provision of a law signed into Congress last session allows small employers with fewer than 50 full-time employees that do not offer a group health plan to fund employee HRAs to pay for qualified out-of-pocket medical expenses and for non-group plan health insurance premiums, including plans purchased on the public health care exchanges.

Allowing small businesses to offer a bare bones plan and HSAs would allow individuals to decide the best choice for themselves and their families, according to Tom Secor of Durable Corporation, who testified on behalf of the National Small Business Association (NSBA).

This hearing was the first of a continuing series that will take place on the discussion of healthcare repeal and replacement. To read full written testimony from each witness here.

Gloria Larkin, WIPP’s National Partner of the Month – February 2017

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Gloria Larkin, president of TargetGov, has been a staunch ally of WIPP for years. She leads GiveMe5 webinars, responds quickly and effectively to WIPP’s calls to action, and is always on the lookout for new WIPP members. It’s thanks to people like Gloria that WIPP thrives!

Read our Q&A with Gloria to learn more about her and her work.

Q: Tell us a little about TargetGov and its mission

A: TargetGov is celebrating its 20th year in business in 2017! Our mission is to help small, mid-sized and large government contractors win business and aggressively grow their companies. Our clients have won over $3.9 billion in federal contracts in just the last five years.

Q: Have you always been an entrepreneur? If not, what inspired you to take the leap?

A: I have been both an employee and an entrepreneur. I took the leap 20 years ago because I wanted to do something that no one else was doing—help businesses see great success and increase their revenues with a targeted, proactive marketing and business development process.

Q: Have you encountered challenges you had to overcome as a business woman and if so, what have you learned from them?

A: The challenges have been constant, and access to capital is one of the biggest. Through the years, I have had several business loans to grow my business, and none of them were the amount I asked for. It’s an issue even to this day. In applying for a line of credit, I was offered less than half of what I thought it should be. I had the chutzpah to say exactly the amount I thought they should give me (more than double what they offered) and was pleasantly surprised that they agreed. In the past I wouldn’t have pushed, but now, I do.

Q: Do you have a success story that you are particularly proud of? Tell us about it!

A: My proudest moments are when our clients contact us and tell us of their awarded contracts and successful business growth. It feels like my children are successful and I am one proud parent! The first billion was a heady milestone. Now as we see the four-billion milestone coming this year, we are ecstatic about their success!

Q: What is the biggest lesson learned working with the federal government?

A: The biggest lesson is that the federal government market is constantly changing. The rules and regulations are burdensome, yes, but success is predicated on having a strategy and plan that addresses this constant change and adapts proactively, with a trackable, measureable and scalable process. Seeing it work in real life is extraordinary!

Q: Do you have any tips you would like to share with women pursuing federal contracts?

A: This is a demanding market and one must be well prepared, have a well-thought-out roadmap, the discipline to execute it, and measurable actions to track success. This is truly the market in which you can think BIG and see results. But it takes effort and knowledge; use the experts to help you!

Q: Tell us about your experience as a WIPP member. What resources and value has WIPP provided that has been helpful to you and your company?

A: WIPP has truly changed my life. I started getting involved as a committee chair, then learned how to talk to my Congress people. I participated in virtually every area WIPP works in and found a home on the procurement committee. Then I worked my way onto the government board, and then to Chair of the Educational Foundation. Thanks to WIPP, I have testified before the House Small Business Committee, and traveled to more than 15 states and had lifetime trips to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Japan and Oxford, England to speak or work with women in those counties. Working to start the GiveMe5 program, and supporting it through the years has been a great highlight. WIPP has impacted more than 30,000 women business owners through GiveMe5! And I am deeply honored to have many WIPP members as clients and heart-felt friends.

Senate Begins Process to Repeal Obamacare

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

The 115th Congress is already at work and taking votes that impact women business owners. The Senate voted 51 to 48 early Thursday to approve a budget resolution that instructs Congressional committees to begin work on legislation repealing major portions of the Affordable Care Act.

Senator Rand Paul was the lone Republican “no” vote and Republicans defeated Democratic amendments defending popular portions of the ACA, including expanded Medicaid and Medicare and allowing kids to stay on their parents’ insurance until they’re 26.

The House is expected to take up the resolution this week, though debate may extend into the weekend.

WIPP will work with Congress to ensure that whatever changes are implemented address accessibility and affordability—issues that have plagued the small business market.

WIPP will stay on top of legislative developments like this in 2017 to make sure you have the latest information you need.

In With the New

By Ann Sullivan, WIPP Chief Advocate

With inauguration festivities up ahead and a newly elected Congress hard at work, it is time to get down to business. The New Year serves as a good reminder that while there may be some new faces in Washington, many of the policy ideas are those we have seen before. Below are some highlights of what is both old and new in Washington for 2017.

Old and New. For the first time in years, our Country has unified government in the House, Senate, and White House. The difference this time is that the government is united by the Republicans, not Democrats. Amazingly, it’s only been six years since the Democrats controlled the government. New—now the Republicans are in change.

Old. Some problems don’t change. Creating more opportunities for women entrepreneurs to access capital continues to be a major theme for WIPP in 2017. Today, women entrepreneurs receive only 4% of commercial loan dollars. WIPP’s access to capital platform Breaking the Bank has been well received by policy makers because it is focused on solutions.

New. Some problems just surfaced. WIPP recently released a report, “Do Not Enter: Women Shut Out of U.S. Government’s Biggest Contracts,” finding clear evidence that women-owned small businesses have limited opportunities to win some of the federal government’s most sought-after contracts, despite a proven ability to deliver innovative goods and services. The report also outlines steps policy makers can take to rectify the problem.

Old. 2016 Was certainly a year of regulations for federal contractors. From Paid Sick Leave, to Overtime, Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces—it was often difficult to keep them straight.

New. 2017 is the year of deregulation. President-elect Trump and the U.S. House have strongly indicated many Obama administration rules will be repealed. The House just passed the Midnight Relief Act to quickly repeal any rule finalized in the last 60 days of an Administration. WIPP supports efforts to make it easier for women entrepreneurs to work with the government.

New. Government contracting finalized. While it took many years, SBA has finally released the new all-small business Mentor Protégé Program, and new rules making it easier for WOSBs to work with other WOSBs. WIPP looks forward to working with SBA to ensure WOSBs can use these program changes to grow our businesses.

Old. Wait –Nothing gets repealed in government contracting, there is just more to pile on.

Old and New. In 2017, 125 women hold seats in the U.S. Capitol building. One hundred and four women hold seats in the U.S. Congress, making up over 19 percent of the chamber. A greater percentage of women serve in the U.S. Senate, where there are 21 women (making up 21 percent). While the total number of women is identical to the number last Congress, there is one key difference—64% of the new women elected are women of color.

New. Firsts in Congress. Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware is the first woman, and woman of color to serve from Delaware. Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto is the first woman, and first woman of color Nevada has elected to the U.S. Senate.

As WIPP prepares to work in the 115th Congress, we plan to present our ideas based on input from membership. We will work with all Members of Congress, and the new Administration, because one of the few things everyone agrees on is that enabling businesses to grow strengthens our economy. Women are entering the ranks of business ownership at record rates, and launching a net of more than 1,100 new businesses each day. We will work for the next several years to reinforce and grow the success of women’s business owners.

So what are we waiting for—let’s get to work.

Remarkable Advances For Women Business Owners

By Jake Clabaugh, WIPP Government Relations

Annual Mtg 2014 - #2The U.S. Census Bureau Survey of Business Owners (SBO) showed impressive expansion for women-owned businesses. The survey’s latest data, released in August, showed nearly 10 million women-owned firms in the United States. This represents a 27% improvement from the survey’s last results in 2007. In the long term, the number of women-owned companies has increased over 50% since the survey showed 6.5 million firms in 2002.

This growth in women-owned firms is an encouraging economic indicator. Just as important, this progress occurred during the largest recession since the Great Depression. It stands as a testament to the resilience and entrepreneurial spirit of our country’s female business owners.

The SBO is an important tool for assessing the state and growth of businesses, particularly women-owned. The Census Bureau describes this survey as providing “the only source of detailed and comprehensive data on the status, nature, and scope of women-, minority-, and veteran-owned businesses.” While only the preliminary findings have been released, it provides an important preview of the more comprehensive data that will be made available later this year. The complete dataset will include more specified demographic breakdowns of firm ownership characteristics, including women-, minority- and veteran-owned businesses as well as revenues, size, industry-classification data, and geographic information.

It is imperative to use the most complete, comprehensive, and timely data to structure reasoned, directed policy initiatives and make informed decisions, thus, we are looking forward to having the complete survey data later this year. It will be an invaluable tool for guiding our policy direction moving forward, educating government entities and providing useful comparisons for individual firms. We whole-heartedly expect the full dataset to reveal many more successes.

Celebrating Women’s Equality Day

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Each year on August 26th we celebrate Women’s Equality Day, the day women were granted the right to vote when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920. This day not only commemorates the passage of the 19th Amendment, but it also recognizes the ongoing fight toward full economic equality. While we have made gained some ground with WIPP’s efforts to increase federal contracting opportunities for women, we still have a long way to go with issues such as access to capital, equal pay, and ensuring more women are in leadership roles in the corporate and political spheres.

See below for more resources on Women’s Equality Day:

Please don’t forget to recognize this important day by highlighting it via your social media channels.  Use the hashtag – #WomensEqualityDay to add your voice to the chorus in recognizing the important role women play in our nation.

SBA’s Announcement of the 2016 InnovateHER Challenge and Summit

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By Annie Wilson, Intern

On Tuesday, August 4th the Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the launch of the 2016 InnovateHER: Innovating for Women Business Challenge and Summit. In partnership with Microsoft, the 2016 InnovateHER includes the second round of the women’s business competition to feature new, innovative products and services that help to change and empower the lives of women and families. Last year, the SBA engaged over 100 organizations and reached 1000+ entrepreneurs around the country and this year they have expanded their challenge to include a women’s summit.

It is the SBA’s hope that through this summit they can unveil products or services that have a measurable impact on women and their families, fulfill a marketplace need and have potential for commercialization. The SBA recognizes that while women control 80% of the purchasing power in this country they only make up less than 5% of venture capitalists. The InnovateHER Challenge is an effort to bridge that economic standard for women and elevate commercial success for women entrepreneurs and products for women.

The InnovateHER event will kick off in the fall of 2015 in its initial round starting with competitions hosted by universities, accelerators, clusters, scale-up communities, resource partners and other organizations. The SBA is encouraging organizations all across the country to participate in this challenge to provide accessibility to an innovative space for women. A way in which organizations can help the InnovateHER challenge and women entrepreneurs within their community is to host a local business competition and submit the winner to the SBA no later than December 3rd, 2015 for the semi final rounds. The SBA will then select up to 10 semifinalists from their community nominations that will be sent to the final pitch competition. The 2016 InnovateHER and final pitch competition will be held March 16-17th, 2016 in Washington D.C. At the final competition, the remaining contestants will do one final marketing pitch and compete to be one of the top three winners to receive up to $70,000 in prize money.

Make sure to check out last year’s winners: LIA Diagnostics, the Shower Shirt, and Trusst.

If you’d like to learn more about the challenge rules or how to become a host organization, please click here.

If you’d like to learn more about the challenge itself, please click here.

Momentum of Women in Tech

Women in the tech industry is getting more and more coverage in last couple of weeks and days, from the #ILookLikeAnEngineer tweet storm to the White House Demo Day event resulting in tech giants announcing plans to hire more women and minorities. Intel went even further, offering their employees bigger referral bonuses when recommending a woman candidate.

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It is all part of a long-term public discussion about women in technology, or rather, addressing the fact that there is not enough women working in the technology sector. Despite high profile stories on successful women leading tech giants, the numbers are actually getting worse. In last two decades, there was a steady decline of women working in tech industry – from 35% in 1990 to just 26% in 2013. Some blame the pipeline, other the unfriendly “bro” culture or not favorable family policies that prevent women from building long-term careers in the tech industry. But the overall outcome is the same – 41% of women end up leaving tech jobs after couple of years.

Rachel Tomas provides deep insight into the topic in her latest story for medium.com. As a programmer, she discusses components of the tech culture which she states led her to leave her tech career, citing unconscious bias against women.

Ms. Tomas highlights several statistics from studies on gender disparities in the tech industry:

How can the tech industry make positive changes to be more inclusive of women? Ms. Tomas makes several recommendations:

  • More comprehensive training of managers, especially in fast growing companies where engineers are often being promoted without any training at all.
  • More formal hiring and promotion criteria to avoid decisions based on “gut feel” which is often unconsciously biased as learned from the above studies.
  • Strong leadership implementing concrete measures to support unbiased culture and diversity.
  • Regular audits on employee data such as comparison and evaluation of earnings, promotions, performance reviews, and attrition rates among genders.
  • Cease encouraging and rewarding employees to stay late at work which besides risk of burnouts leads to discrimination of people with families.
  • Create a collaborative environment instead of competitive one.
  • Offer adequate maternity leave without compromises as requiring participation on teleconferences during leave.

Read Rachel Tomas’s full piece here.

Flourishing women with flourishing careers

Start your week with an article on women who continue building their careers in the age which is usually connected with retirement and taking care of grandchildren -> Clinton, Yellen, and Warren all reached their 60s having raised families and built long professional tracks as well.

Statistics also point to a significant rise in entrepreneurship during the “retirement years”. According to Kauffman stFlourishing womenudy, Americans in their fifties and sixties have started businesses at a faster pace over the last decade, while that pace has continuously slowed among Americans in their twenties and early thirties. The article puts a new perspective on the topic: “Perhaps having to wait awhile isn’t an entirely bad thing. If more people in professional and public life had to perform, and keep performing, before they got top posts, all of us might be better off.”

Whether building and expanding professional careers, entering public service, or building that dream business, retirement years are now years of opportunity and excitement for all of us.

Read the whole article here http://theatln.tc/1IF5GHi